Thursday, December 17, 2015

Gifts from the marketplace

     Your marketplace is always changing. Sometimes, the marketplace can throw a gift in your direction. If you are alert, you'll consider whether or not it's right for you. If it fits, grab it and run with it.
     Expanding therapies -- Isabelle is a certified therapist specializing in helping clients through stress, PTSD, grief and related personal issues. She noticed that many of her clients had gone through drug and alcohol addiction rehab programs, but large numbers of them were still fighting their old habits. Today, Isabelle has expanded her proactive sessions to help rehab "graduates" cope with their on-going problems. They represent a well-defined market of people who need specific help. Isabelle is developing several programs specifically for post-rehab people. It's another area of therapy that is bringing in an increasing number of clients. She is building on what she already does and reaching out to a larger market for her services.

     Pest control -- Joe runs a small independent pest control company. He has experienced difficult "breaking out" ahead of his competition. When his town suddenly came alive with stink bugs, Joe saw a new market opportunity. He got busy on Facebook, showing the invasion of the bugs--with pictures of the bugs on sidewalks, patios and porches. The calls came in. He gave short talks at meetings. More calls came in. Many of the calls turned into real customers coping with fleas, ticks, mice, ants, spiders, and, yes, stink bugs. The stink bugs were a marketing gift.

     Recycling expanded -- Margie runs a local recycling operation. She specializes in taking in all types of metals, including unwanted electronics. The metals market goes through ups and downs. When prices go up, lots of metal shows up at her place. When the price for metal goes down, not so much arrives. When a storm came through her area, Margie spotted another opportunity. The storm left many downed trees. She put the word out that she would take the wood--no payment, just a convenient place for people to get rid of it. Soon her back lot was filled with a jumble of tree trunks and limbs. Again, Margie put the word out--this time to woodworkers, businesses, artisans. She offered mulch, firewood, and more. She had suddenly expanded into other markets. Two or three seasonal storms keep the back lot filled. 

     Be on the lookout for marketing opportunities that fall in your lap. Some might fit with your plans. Others, not so much.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Picture promotions on social media

     The easiest way to hop onto social media is Facebook. Small businesses all over the country use Facebook to promote their products and services.

     Facebook is the busiest destination for small businesses to get the word out in the world of the Internet--and passed around. There are others. Many businesses get good results using Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and others. 

     The key is found in all those pictures you've been taking. Or those you will take once you get in the habit.

     Gone are the days when you needed a professional photographer to take pictures. No longer. Those you take yourself are suitable for posting on social media. 

     Collectibles -- Joe has a collectibles shop. He carries all sorts of things--board games, video games, sports memorabilia, vintage toys, LP albums of older music groups, and more. Every week Joe selects several items that recently arrived in his shop. He takes pictures and posts on his website and, more importantly, on social media. This reels in buyers from far and near, and they refer others to his website.

     Bakery -- Mike runs a bakery. He regularly snaps pictures of hands preparing a cake in stages. The pictures tell a story, and he posts these on Pinterest and Facebook. This has created lots of excitement among viewers, and they pass the pictures around to their friends. Using this approach, Mike gets more customers--walking in, calling, and visiting his website which has lots of pictures of bakery items.

     Salon -- Mary operates a hair and nail salon. She takes pictures of selected hair styles that have been created in her salon (no face pictures, just the stylings). Also, she takes pictures of hands showing new nail designs. She post on social media, and customers check out her posting on Facebook.

     Therapist -- Linda is a certified therapist, helping people overcome the problems in their lives. She helps with marriage problems, eating disorders, addictions, and more. To avoid ethical problems, she is limited in picture postings. She solved the problem by taking pictures of kittens and puppies and posting these on her Facebook page. These attract a great deal of attention and get passed around--which is the point. Calls come in requesting appointments.

     All of these businesses have websites. But pictures on social media get quick eyeballs, and interested people go to the website for more information. You will notice more traffic on your website when you use pictures to attract attention on social media. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Technology changes your business

     In business, you must keep up. Your industry changes, and you are on top of it. Your market changes, and you are continually looking for new markets. But technology? Now, that is a different can of worms.
     Technology moves at remarkable speed. And it invades every business sector. Yours included.

     New methods: Jack owns a machine shop. He's been machining parts and tools for his customers for a generation. His biggest customers are in various industries--auto parts, aerospace, health care. Suddenly, 3D printing began making inroads in his industry. With 3D printing, parts and tools can be produced more quickly and at a cheaper cost. Jack installed a 3D printing capability, including a computer programming expert. He is now gradually phasing out the cutting and grinding machines that served him so well for decades. The future is in 3D printing. It is manufacturing of the future--human hearts have been made and auto parts are a walk in the park.

     Quick payments: Donna operates an upscale women's clothing and accessories shop. She is on top of the latest styles and designs, and she promotes on social media--Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others. She targets high-end customers, and they have rewarded Donna with active sales. Not only do they visit her shop when they see her posts on social media, but they refer others as well. When offered a mechanism to pay with a card swipe, Donna quickly added the capability. Then she added ApplePay. Customers appreciate her keen eye in the fashion world, and they now like the ease with which they can pay for their purchases.

     Updated access: Linda runs a restaurant that is popular with the lunchtime crowd--corporate types in her area. Her full menu is posted on her website, and she posts her daily specials on Facebook. In the past, Linda maintained a fax list and sent out faxes listing specials every day. But the fax went by the wayside. Today, Linda's restaurant has its own app. Customers now hit the app and place orders as they leave their corporate cubicles. By the time they arrive at Linda's place, their meal is ready for them to sit down and enjoy.

     Technology is changing everything. If you don't keep up, your business will suffer. Customers tend to drift toward those businesses that are on top of today's technology.